I kind of get embarrassed talking about my diagnosis. I guess with Crohn’s, it just seems like such a ‘yucky’ situation. I mean, we are talking about poo and bum holes here… no one wants to hear about that! But since I have met lots of people with Crohn’s, that stigma of talking about the yuckiness goes away more and more, and there is a compassion about what you go through.
Since learning about this, people with Crohn’s will get what I am saying…the rest of you reading, well I warned you. It’s kind of gross.
Basically when I was 15 I noticed things weren’t working as usual. I didn’t have the typical Crohn’s symptoms of blood and diarrhea, but I was constipated and had pain everytime I had a bowel movement. It hurt. Like passing razor blades. As a teenager, I didn’t want to talk about it, and just figured it would heal by itself. Denial is best….NOT
Anyway, at school, we started doing yoga in PE class (which was fucking awesome) and for some of the positions, we would put a brick underneath us to support or steady us (have not seen this done in yoga classes since… bolsters are one thing, but real bricks…bizarro). I used to slip the brick at the base of my spine when I was lying down… and then after a while I noticed at home that it became very sore around my coccyx. I figured I must have bruised the area while doing my brick-yoga poses. But when the pain didn’t go away (it was like a dull pressure), I started to do some exploring. I remember sitting on the loo and then reaching behind to touch the area around my tailbone… I felt like there was a pressure that I needed to relieve. When I pressed on the area, I felt something ooze from my anus. I remember thinking, “that’s fucking weird”. Press something here, something oozes out over there. I did it a few times and I felt the pressure relieve itself, and it was quite a satisfying experience. The dull ache was still there, but the pressure didn’t feel as intense.
So just like every teenager thinks that they know everything, I convinced myself that I’d fixed the problem. Sweeeettttt. Wipe butt, flush and move on for the day.
But then every visit to the toilet became an opportunity for me to relieve the pressure and get the oozing out. I can’t remember how many times I did this before a fucking lightbulb moment occurred and I thought “I should probably tell mum about this”. I went to mum and was like “There’s some weird puss stuff coming out of my bum when I poo”… but said all nonchalantly… because I didn’t want to seem uncool, or that it bothered me. Mum straight away booked me in to see my GP. When we got there, I pulled down my undies and let her have a nice look at my butt with a lamp. She pressed on the coccyx area (where I felt the pressure building) and saw puss coming out and confirmed that I had an abscess. Surgery would be needed to clear it out.
Ok, I can deal with that. Surgery, clear out abscess, back to normal.
Except when I got back from the hospital, things started to get worse. All of a sudden I could not get out of bed. I was sleeping all the time and had major fevers. Mum would wake me up and would have to feed me just so I could get some food in me. I started to lose weight very quickly (overall, I lost 7 kilos in a month and looked hectically sick!). After a few days my mum realised it wasn’t some sort of weird fever/flu, I was clearly very VERY unwell. I don’t remember much at the time, I don’t even really remember her getting me out of bed. But somehow, my amazing mum carried me down 3 flights of stairs in our apartment building, got me into a car, and drove me to emergency at St.Vinnies. And the only memory I have is when I became conscious that I was in hospital, with one armed draped over my mum’s shoulders and the other around a nurse, and my feet being dragged across the hallway.
And then I woke up in a hospital bed in the recovery ward. Even remembering all this makes me cry. Clearly it was very traumatic on my psyche. I can only imagine what it was like for the people around me seeing me in that state. When I woke up I was in tremendous pain, not only in my butt, but in my vagina. I remember thinking “Ohmigod, the surgeon must have raped me!” and when I screamed to the nurse to ask her what had happened, she told me that they had inserted a catheter. And that shit REALLY hurts. But it is kinda funny when all of a sudden the bag fills up with pee and you didn’t even realise that you had the urge to pee to begin with!
Anyway, I was then transported to my hospital room which I shared with maybe 2 other people? Can’t really remember, except that I was in the far right hand corner of the room when you entered. When I was wheeled in, I was still drowsy from the GA and was in and out of consciousness. I do remember my mum was crying. The surgeon had told her that I had almost died on the operating table. Apparently what was believed to be an abscess in my coccyx (that I had just had cleared out) turned out to be more like 4 abscesses that were poisoning me with septicemia. So yeah, that shit ain’t fun! And that’s how I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
As a young person, I used to fear dying young. I used to worry about dying and missing out (#FOMO). What I didn’t realise was that when you ARE dying, you don’t really know it. I just remember having fevers, my mum waking me up to feed me, but I slept all of the time. And if I never awakened from that sleep, I would never know. You just don’t have the awareness that you are no longer there, that you are actually missing out on anything. And this revelation really changed me. It made me really want to eat up life. I wanted to take a chance with everything, make the most out of life, be the eternal optimist and be filled with hope for every situation. Give people and myself second and third chances, understand people better and care more.
And then the fear of dying went away, because I had almost experienced it, and didn’t even realise!
Which is how “Shit happens” came about as my motto in life. It’s cool, I can deal with it. It happens to everyone. And from a really horrible health situation, I found my “self”. The silver lining. The rainbow after the rain. And all those other cliche phrases about finally seeing and appreciating the good stuff that came from the bad stuff. It made me who I am today. And yes, I still bitch and moan about having relapses, and I still cry and scream uncontrollably when it gets too much for me to deal with emotionally and psychologically… but underneath all of it, I have an appreciation for it being a part of my identity.
So for those of you struggling with Crohn’s or any other health issues that you are so FUCKING over, I hear you! It totally sucks. But if deep, deep down, you can find a way to accept it, it’ll be much better for the healing – physically, emotionally and spiritually.